On Saturday April 13, the eighth annual Roosevelt Island Cherry Blossom Festival was held. Like previous years, there was a morning tea ceremony, community picnics and food vendors, a Japanese Cultural Fair, and music and dance performances. The weather could not have been more beautiful.
Jim Luce, Island resident and founder and president of the J. Luce Foundation was the master of ceremonies. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney shared remarks, as did council member Ben Kallos and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer. For the first time ever, Astoria's Noguchi Museum joined in the festivities. An art exhibition by Setsuko Winchester, 120 handmade yellow tea bowls representing 120,000 people of Japanese ethnicity who were imprisoned during WWII, was displayed in FDR Four Freedoms Park.
In a press release, Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) shared that it was the first time in the festival's long history that they were able to raise the funds to pay the musicians and dancers for their performances. Participating local groups included RIRA, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, FDR Four Freedoms Park, Gallery RIVAA, the Roosevelt Island Japanese Association, the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance, The Noguchi Museum, the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association, the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network, Amalgamated Bank, Bozzuto Management Company, Bread & Butter Deli, Cornell Tech, Fuji East, Gristedes, Hornblower, Hudson and The Related Companies, Island House Tenants Corp., Island Wine & Spirits, The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, Manhattan Park, Resobox, Starbucks, Urban American, Wengerd Farms, Westview Preservation Partners and Wholesome Factory Market.
Unfortunately, the success of the event was marred by overcrowding and lack of access to transportation causing extreme difficulty for both visitors and Islanders. RIOC President Susan Rosenthal addressed the crowds in a press release saying, “Roosevelt Island may no longer be the best kept secret in the city.”